Tony was a regional truck driver for a delivery service when he had a flare-up of his multiple sclerosis. He had intermittent issues with temporary sight loss and numbness in his legs due to MS, which led his neurologist to tell him that he could no longer drive trucks for a living.

But Tony wasn’t willing to give up on a career:

"I couldn’t see myself sitting at home for the rest of my life."

Knowing that he needed to be working again in the future, Tony took time to recover. During that period he collected Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, which he described as a “great safety net” but not as a lifetime solution.

TonyTony credits his vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselor as the reason he became a personal trainer. "I tried to fight him, I wanted to get back into trucking… and he nudged me into this direction, saying it might be a calling," he said, when asked how he changed his career focus.

The college Tony was attending at the time had the certification he would need to become a personal trainer. With financial assistance from his local VR office, Tony completed the program, and received his certification a month later.

After getting certified, Tony approached the owner of Fitness 19, Kurt, about working as a trainer at his gym. Kurt already had five trainers at the gym, but that didn’t deter Tony. He proposed a challenge:

"Can you give me thirty days to show you that I would be better, probably, than all five of your trainers?"

Impressed, Kurt gave Tony an opportunity to prove his skills. Thirty days later, Tony was the gym’s number one trainer.

Tony’s clients describe him as an outstanding trainer dedicated to meeting each individual’s needs. He supports his clients, never letting them give up, and pushing them to achieve their best.

Tony loves his work, valuing the way that he can help people reach their goals. He also appreciates being back to work full-time, and having made the move back to what he calls his “normal life.”

Tony offers this advice for anyone who wants to get off SSDI benefits:

You need to believe in yourself first. Try to keep a positive attitude. There are going to be roadblocks with anything… but keep a positive attitude and reach out for help. There’s a lot of help out here for us.

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The SGA Project is funded by the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education Grant # H235L100004